Divestiture

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Dear Artist,

Last night Marion Castle of Kilkenny, Ireland, wrote, “I’m in a lamentable predicament. I wish to offer for sale forty of my paintings that have not been on the market before. I formerly lived in Cape Town, South Africa, where my work sold well. Now, in Ireland, I work in seclusion and isolation. How could I arrange for someone knowledgeable to come by and assess the merit of the works? I wish to keep the collection together and am still reluctant to sell piecemeal, although I have sold a few here. Could you possibly give me a road plan?”

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“Nicci Kitney”
oil painting
by Marion Castle

Thanks, Marion. Yours is a common predicament for late-career artists, and for a few early-career ones as well. Some of us actually have thousands languishing in the dark. I take it you would like to raise cash. As your work is really quite excellent, there are several plans you might think about:

Attract a significant dealer.

Consign them to an auction house.

Continue with local piecemeal sales.

Investigate a public museum connection.

Donate them to a suitable charity.

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“Dancer”
oil painting
by Marion Castle

For the sake of this letter, I’m going to describe a plan built around my first suggestion. You need to make a complete photographic record of the works you wish to sell, including shots of the back of the works and any related provenance. You need to submit this material by email to whom you think may be appropriate art dealers in Ireland, South Africa, perhaps Britain, Canada, or other countries with a currently healthy art market. If something clicks, allow the dealers to suggest what they might be able to do for you. Some may offer low-ball cash so they can speculate; others may be willing to work on consignment — generally 50/50.

If you cut a deal with someone, give them exclusive rights in a large geographical area, and for a specific time — say, three years. Don’t sell under their noses or undercut agreed prices, no matter how high they might push them. Dealers look on art as a commodity. They need to take control and manage rarity. Proper (not amateur) dealers have talents and connections that you probably don’t. This is the price artists pay to sustain cash flow. Be firm, be fair, be pleasant. Neither an ogre nor a patsy be.

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“Karen Muir”
oil painting
by Marion Castle

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “No man will work for your interests unless they are his.” (American psychologist David Seabury, 1885-1960)

Esoterica: Marion is an artist who, because of a change in geographical location, has lost touch with her economic base. At the same time, her work has a universal, humanist quality not based on a specific place, so it’s suitable to market pretty well anywhere. Thus blessed, Marion owes it to herself to keep on rolling her wheel of fortune. Self-doubt and a shortage of recent reinforcement can cause artists to lose this sort of focus.

 

Marion Castle’s paintings

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Mea Culpa

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Bibi at Plumstead

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Children

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Tessa de groot

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Constantia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back of the painting
by Peter Reid, Chatsworth, ON, Canada
 

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“The Mill pond”
original painting
by Peter Reid

Why photograph the back of the canvas?

(RG note) Thanks, Peter. Many artists asked this question. The back of a work can give an indication of a lot of things; title, type of support — canvas, wood, etc — sometimes location and often the date and the artist’s signature. In older paintings it may show dealer or auction-house labels. It’s all in the name of establishing quality and authenticity, as well as adding the possibility of further interest or insight about how the work came to be produced. What’s on the back can help to carry the works through successive collectors down through the years. It’s called “provenance.”

 

 

Driven to direct sales
by Morton Wesley, Birmingham, UK
 

With the amazing number of painters now on the scene, and the great shortage of effective galleries, many of us have been driven to doing our own marketing and going for direct sales. Approached as one would any other product, while adding a degree of discretion and sensitivity that is befitting art, one can do quite well by just building a personal customer base and going from there by referral and reputation. As you have said somewhere else, Robert, everyone of the general public needs their own personal artist. If work is of sufficient quality, maybe not even top notch, it’s been my experience that you can build your own cottage industry and your own success.

 

More ideas for Marion
by Jan Ross, Kennesaw, GA, USA
 

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“Another Elder”
original painting
by Jan Ross

I think Marion Castle’s paintings are truly wonderful! Your suggestion to find a gallery owner in a larger city is one I strongly endorse. I know that Ireland is a terrific place for artists to live as they are not required to pay income taxes as the government encourages/supports the arts. Undoubtedly, she has a lot of competition with other fine artists there, but given the quality of her work, I think she’ll rise to the top. I wonder how much exposure Marion has given her work through the press, online etc.? These are hard economic times, for sure, but her work can certainly draw some buyers.

Since Marion is obviously able to connect with people online, as she contacted you, I wonder if she has a website and what she’s doing to promote her fine work? Has she tried an “Open House” for locals to come by, meet her and see her beautiful work? People love meeting artists as well as seeing who painted such fine work. Next, I’d suggest she try to reach a gallery/agent in Dublin, where tourists are abundant, to make arrangements to sell her work. Also, how about if she contacts an Irish airline magazine to promote her work to visitors to Kilkenney?

 

Same predicament
by Mimi Ball, Murcia, Spain
 

Well I am in the same predicament as Marion. I moved from south France, to Spain near Murcia, and a completely different environment. It was modern apartment with not too much room, of course somewhat sized patios, but having lived in an ancient house around 1000 yrs old with beams and stone walls, it was quite a change. It has taken me some time to acclimatize, so I have not done a lot of art. I also live part time in Oslo, Norway, and also in UK, as I am French-English. Anyway I have quite a few paintings.

(RG note) Thanks, Mimi. Many artists let us know they were in the same predicament. The system I suggested to Marion will work where quality is high and the artist has some sort of a track record. Where the disappointment comes in is where work is substandard or not suitable for exhibit and sale. Merely setting up a website or actively offering it may not do the trick. For those who would try to sell their work online, generally speaking, art that does not sell in brick and mortar galleries will not sell for life-sustaining prices on the Internet.

 

Artist Advocate Magazine
by Lisa Freedman
 

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Artist Advocate magazine

Artist Advocate Magazine was created by an artist to provide a venue for traditional and contemporary artists in every medium throughout the world to connect with galleries and art buyers around the world, and in the short year that it has been on the market, it has proven to work! We have testimonials from many artists and galleries thanking us for bringing them together.

The premise is very simple. Artists take out an ad in Artist Advocate. All we need from them are a few simple images, a short statement or quote describing their work, and their contact info. Our production team will create the ad to provide consistency to the publication. The artist will receive copies. And we distribute the magazine to over 6,500 galleries, as well as over 8,000 venues online.

Artist Advocate is published 4 times a year: Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall. We are currently accepting ads for our Fall issue, for which the deadline is August 14th. Interested parties may contact me for more details. Should you wish for me to mail you sample copies for your own distribution, please send me your mailing address, and I will be happy to do so.

The publishers of Artist Advocate also publish Fine Art Connoisseur. This is for galleries, museums and event coordinators interested in targeting collectors directly.

 

Galleries and dealers
by Jennifer Nilles, San Diego, CA, USA
 

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“Out My Back Door”
oil painting
by Jennifer Nilles

I am an artist and I am having a hard time selling my art. For the last 10 years of oil painting I have been getting progressively better at my craft and finding my voice. I have won awards for my art and have sold pieces here and there from various shows and exhibitions, usually to family, friends and the occasional stranger locally. I also recently uploaded multiple works for sale on The San Diego Museum of Art Artists Guild Website.

I am working on creating a cohesive body of work and I must say have been interrupted by selling a piece here and a piece there. So now I am holding back on exhibiting some of my most recent works because I am trying to create this body. I do have lots and lots of work but it consists of some plein air, some landscapes, some sky scapes, some surrealistic, some drawings, some mixed media and some figures. I have the ability to create great portraits.

After seven years of painting and teaching on my own. I discovered that I love teaching almost as much as painting so I have been attending college to pursue various degrees in Art and will eventually achieve a Masters Degree, so that I may teach in the college atmosphere. College Art teachers are expected to be successful artists. I also expect myself to be successful as well.

Here are my questions:

How does one find a dealer?

Do you contact galleries?

What is the difference between an art agent and a dealer?

How large does a body of work need to be to qualify as a body of work?

(RG note) Thanks, Jennifer. While there are lots of galleries capable of hanging anyone’s work, there are a small percentage who can be considered “dealers.” Dealers (or agents) generally have a direction and a preference in art, an eye for quality, and are able to influence people to acquire work. The best dealers are ones who believe in you and are loyal to you. You don’t find them so much as they find you. The best you can do is to show your work discretely and in moderation on the Internet, (such as in our Premium Listings) and let potentially desirable dealers know that you exist and where to find you. Let yourself be informed who’s doing what in each geographical area, and if you do strike a deal with a dealer, give him or her a degree of exclusivity. To answer your last question, dealers like to know that the goose that lays the golden eggs is going to continue laying more and more.

 

Expand with Facebook
by Gavin Calf, Cape Town, South Africa
 

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“518 Gold on Orange”
oil painting by Gavin Calf

Marion and I were couched together in Observatory a long time ago and it is truly wonderful to see her work again. Excellent!! RG declares the best medicine is to produce good art so in the long term she won’t have a problem. I remain down south in Africa and I haven’t sold a bean since January save for one commission. It’s the same for Jeanette Unit and many great artists. If it is her Facebook account: Marion Castle, Ireland then I suggest getting more active on FB. It is great. Also become a Premium Artist on this site or start with the free listing at least. I received an invitation to exhibit at the 7th Florence Biennale 2009 because I have a website and I am on several art blog sites. Raise your profile. Upload your art onto Facebook. You needn’t put prices and a lot of galleries have Facebook pages.

 

Systems for a travelling artist
by Angela Treat Lyon, Kailua, Hawaii, USA
 

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“Journey”
oil painting
by Angela Treat Lyon

When I moved from Hawaii to New Mexico, and then from there to New Zealand, it was as if I’d moved to a different planet each time. It was as if I had never had a single customer in my life before. Took a while for my fragile little ego to get over that!

I didn’t have much money, so after I met some of the local folks in each location, I asked people who had nice places if they’d be willing to have a show at their homes to showcase my sculpture and paintings. They were always delighted to have artwork all over their house and grounds for a whole weekend, and always ended up buying a piece from me, even though I gave them something as a thank you. They also invited many of their friends and acquaintances and introduced me to them, which was an instant ‘in’ in the community.

In New Zealand, I made friends with the woman who ran the local history museum, and who was an excellent painter. We had a third, mutual friend and the three of us started putting up shows in local restaurants. This got us an invitational to a ‘real’ gallery in another town and sales. Restaurant shows are fantastic because the people who don’t usually go to galleries can see and enjoy and talk about your work — and buy it. I think of all the venues that have been most successful for me, restaurants have been the best for my paintings. And not just sales of a few hundred dollars, either — sometimes quite hefty ones up to 5K.

I’ve also held contests — usually a win-a-painting contest both locally and online — even people in other cities can participate. You have to be really diligent and check out contest rules carefully.

I love all-together collections, and have striven to keep them together, but after a while, ‘why bother’ has seemed to prevail – mainly because Mr. So-and-so likes this one and later on Ms Other liked that one and eventually they all sold. Why pass on a sale to someone who loves the piece? I see them every day — why not let the joy go out and be shared instead of hanging on to them all and have no one see them?

One major thing people forget about is to call past collectors and buyers and ask for referrals. I call my major collectors at least once a year to reconnect, even if it doesn’t result in a sale. They know I don’t see them as a walking pocket full of dough — I know them, their kids, what they do, etc., and I care. So they send people to me, no matter where I live at the time. It’s a small world now, and with websites showcasing your work and email, sales can be made pretty rapidly and easily. Referrals are a great way to do that. And people not only don’t mind you asking, but love to feel helpful.



There is 1 comment for Systems for a travelling artist by Angela Treat Lyon

From: Mishcka — Aug 14, 2009

I just spent an hour in your websites! Wonderful!! And thank you for sharing the above experiences. Great ideas.

 

 

World of Art Featured artist Roger Carlson  

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A walk near Sesembre

oil painting by
Roger Carlson

 

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Joseph P Hampden of London, UK, who wrote, “Good art does not need to be advertised; it is automatically found, treasured, sold and resold.”

And also Norma who wrote, “When an artist is poorly off or has low self-esteem, for one reason or another, she must break old habits and put herself forward vigorously. No one will collect you unless you make connections for yourself and become actively sold.”

And also Dick Wilson who wrote, “Who cares? I paint for me and can’t get it stopped.”
 

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Divestiture

 

 

From: Faith — Aug 11, 2009

Marion, your paintings are beautiful. I sympathize with your predicament and hope the good advice given here will help you. But there is a but! You will have to pay some bills before the miracle happens. Maybe you should think about an alternative source of income for the time being. Why not offer art classes for example? You don’t need expensive equipment, just enthusiasm and a few basic paints, brushes and paper (acrylics or gouache come cheap in big pots of student quality, and Bristol carton will take anything but oil), and charcoal (don’t forget the cheap hairspray for sealing) or pencils for sketching. Any priming necessary can be done with dispersion wall paint mixed with wallpaper glue. In Ireland you could probably find a room in a church hall or behind a pub. Get people to pay a little but often e.g. after every session (kids half price!). Start small and hunt around for bigger projects. Maybe adult education would be an option. None of this is well paid, but better than hanging around waiting for that miracle. One more idea, since you are obviously a portrait painter, why not ask someone in the town hall to put you in touch with prospective customers. A commission or two would not come amiss, I’m sure. Advertize your projects on noticeboards etc. I don’t know if any of this will work for you, but it’s worth a try. Good luck!

From: Sarah Clegg — Aug 11, 2009

I’d also suggest getting yourself onto Flickr… I’ve had an account there for quite a while and use it for my photography, paintings, as a blog, for networking etc etc. Have ‘met’ some wonderful people through that all over the world with whom I now correspond regularly and even chat on the phone to. Absolutely invaluable and to date have had almost 20,000 views of my photostream. Have a look here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahclegg

From: Jackie Knott — Aug 11, 2009

Marketing is the great void of training in all our art education. I have applied some purely crass commercial principles to selling my work over the years. I hate to admit it but they worked. The hardest part was considering my paintings commodities that had to be sold like any other specialty goods. And like all commercial ventures, they must be funded and that is the kicker – doing it on a budget.

The first step is a marketing survey, locally, and within a reasonable distance you can get to regularly. I dislike the old sales term, “networking,” but it is imperative to cultivate friendships and acquaintances in your new area. Any art, literary, or music guilds? Any hotels, tourist attractions, or golf course country clubs that display artwork? Libraries or universities? Hospitals? Are there any museums or galleries you could develop a relationship with?

The most curiously profitable relationship for me was, I found an advocate. One might refer to such a person as an agent but this woman was more than that. She was a one-person dynamo in a small town who happened to love art and found someone to champion, myself and my work. She had an antique shop but could have sold anything. Her friends were the most influential in the county. She hosted a formal tea for me in her shop. I was able to display my work (for just that day, it was a small shop) and give a narrative on each piece. It was very successful and we maintained that relationship as long as I lived there. She sold more work for me than the gallery that represented me.

If you have some cash for promotion, these were some successful endeavors:

When we relocated, I identified an affluent neighborhood close to where I lived. I reproduced a photograph of one of my portraits and affixed it to invitation-style cardstock. I gave a brief description of my painting process, abbreviated price list, and contact information. You can go to any county (in the US) and look up specific names of residences. Don’t address it “occupant,” but by name. Mail as many as you can afford. You are after only a small percentage of the mail out. Those who don’t buy are now familiar with your work and may buy later.

I think if I were in your situation I would try to find a space to use or lease and hold your own one-woman show. It doesn’t have to be classy …. a builder’s empty house he can’t sell, a warehouse, community hall, meeting room, empty room for yoga classes at a fitness center, an airport hanger, whatever. Everything must be framed and hung, clearly marked with price.

Approach your collection as a business venture. If you lack the funds to do such a promotion enter into an agreement with someone who does. Obviously, trust and integrity are your first requirements for whoever this person is, second, a contract.

I understand you not wanting to break up your collection. Marion, your paintings are truly lovely. But, finding one buyer for forty works is much harder than say, finding six or ten, or individuals. Have you considered breaking up your collection into mini-categories and offering them as, figures and portraits, landscapes, still-lifes, historical places, and some as individual pieces? A buyer may not care for one genre but may fall in love with another. Eliminate any hesitation the buyer might have.

Last, please don’t discount your artwork. If someone wants to buy your paintings a hundred dollars is not going to cost a sale. Be sure to have a credit card machine, neither would it hurt to place a sign somewhere, “Terms available for purchase.” Have contracts readily at hand if someone wants to buy a piece but can’t quite do it right then – a nonrefundable easy payment plan. If you have a show, you need to be available to talk to potential buyers and leave the buying process to another party.

I’ve found the Internet a powerful sales tool but don’t neglect conventional marketing. Good luck, and keep us posted on what worked for you.

From: Eric Rhoads — Aug 12, 2009

The power of art

Melinda was very ill and confined to bed. Her husband had hooked up Internet access so she could pass the time with a laptop. One day, during a visit to an art gallery’s website, Melinda discovered a painting that spoke to her. She picked up the phone, bought the painting, and had it hung right in front of her bed. The following year, the gallery received an unusual request from Melinda, who asked to speak to the artist about the painting. The artist shared this story with me.

“Melinda had a bout with cancer. She told me that the painting gave her so much pleasure that, as she gazed at it, she forgot her pain. She beat the disease, and told me she thought my painting helped her through it. It absolutely made my career as a painter when I learned that something I created was able to help transport this woman to another place.”

The Importance of Sharing

Sometimes as artists we get lost in the images we paint, the photographs we create, or the sculptures we chisel — but we fail to share them. One painter sent an e-mail last week saying he has hundreds of paintings sitting around but has never attempted to sell them. Though one of the reasons we create is for our own gratification, the other is because our work can touch the lives of others. Imagine how one painting changed the life of Melinda and transported her to a place of strength to overcome her illness. Art can be very powerful. Do you feel the responsibility to share your art?

Insecurity: Will They Like My Work?

The most insecure day of my life was the day I delivered my artwork to a gallery in Santa Fe. I feared they might not like the pieces they hadn’t seen. I’m normally very confident, but my knees were like Jell-O that day. While I was there, the gallery owner hung one of the paintings on an open wall space. Minutes later, a couple entered the gallery and stood in front of my painting for nearly half an hour. They were in love with it. I watched quietly, never letting on that I was the artist. That pivotal moment gave me confidence.

Filling an Unmet Need

In my daily dealings with artists and art galleries, I have discovered both have unmet needs. Artists need an easy way to get exposure at a lot of galleries and avoid the insecurity of personal rejection. Galleries need an easy way to seek artists and avoid annoying artist solicitations.

These reasons are exactly why I created Artist Advocate magazine. It serves one purpose — putting artists and galleries together — and it’s been a runaway success.

What About You?

Chances are you’re an artist who needs to get more of your artwork in the hands of people who love art. A gallery is not only a great distribution system, but also a great sales agent on your behalf. If you have not been in a gallery, I will help you get exposure to thousands of galleries. If you’re already in a gallery but not selling as much today as last year, perhaps you should make it known that you’re considering adding a few more special galleries to your lineup. In either case, my publication can help you. It reaches every level of gallery, from the top-tier metropolitan galleries to the small-town art communities. We’ve seen artists sign up in both.

The Importance of Fall

Fall is the time when most art galleries are evaluating the current year and planning the next. Because exhibitions and shows take so much planning time, many galleries are working now on their 2010 calendar. What new artists will they introduce? What shows will they promote? What will they do differently for next year? Our fall issue is the perfect time to get the attention of galleries seeking new artists. The issue is going to press in just a few days. Will you be seen by these galleries that are making new plans?

Who Will See You?

The magazine is sent to 6,500 art galleries, art publishers, and art licensing professionals. We don’t target frame shops that call themselves galleries, but instead focus on galleries that are known to sell original artworks. Plus, an additional 6,000 digital copies are sent via e-mail. Our list is golden and has taken us years to refine.

Poof. You’re Famous

We make Artist Advocate easy for you. You give us an image of your artwork, we create the ad. We publish the ad and place it in front of our audience, and poof, you could be famous. Why? Artists who have placed ads with us have seen the following results:

– One artist has signed three galleries. Many artists have signed multiple galleries.

– One artist landed a big metropolitan gallery that tripled his prices.

– One artist signed a licensing deal for a book cover.

– One artist signed on with an art publisher for prints.

– One artist was discovered by another art magazine, which did a feature article.

From: Barb — Aug 12, 2009

Eric,

This website has thousands of artists as audience. Will all of us become poof famous when we send our thousands of payments to you?

Are the six example artists that you listed your only successes? Can you share the entire statistics of the percentage of your clients who became poof famous?

Can you provide the contact for Melinda and the mentioned artist as references that I can have a chat with before I send you my payment?

From: bob — Aug 12, 2009

I would prefer to be rich and famous rather than “poof famous” – can the “executives” do that for me?

From: June R. Ladysmith — Aug 14, 2009

As to why humans make art and music. I was listening to CBC this am and the subject was drugs and Americans, why they seem so disposed to “getting high”. I already know we have an area in our brain that is hardwired for “pleasure”. So I took the thought further and cogitated about artist’s “in the zone” feeling, that we often seek to find. Could this all be connected? Are humans hardwired to seek thrills, orgasmic feelings, in everything we do for pleasure? Anyone who has ever been “in the zone” while painting, knows that it is a rush akin to an astronaut leaving the earth on a rocket ship. Once we have been there and felt it we seek for ever to repeat it. Some artists were known for their abuse of drugs or alcohol, was it perhaps their way of trying to get to that magical place. Is it like “tessering”, crossing the universe instantly by bending the fabric of space, point to point and stepping across? What ever it is, it has an enormous affect on us, and makes all the ordinary mundane days of trying to draw, paint express an emotion worth the effort. It is the “why” of our going on and trying again and not giving up. Have a “zone day”, Robert!

From: Liz Reday — Aug 17, 2009

Eric- you’re making money from inexperienced and hopeful artists. Since you stand to gain monetarily from all this hucksterism, artists need to research carefully where they put their advertising dollar. It might be better to spend that money on more paint and canvas, or perhaps artist business cards. I understand you’re an artist also, but you are not promoting your magazine out of selfless love for downtrodden artists, you’re making money from their hopes and dreams. Artists stand more to gain by following the precepts of Jackie Knott, above.

From: Robin d’Arcy Shillcock — Aug 18, 2009

Dear Marion,

Don’t you think you’re exaggerating a little in wanting to sell the whole forty miles of canvas in one go? That may work for famous artists like Andrew Wyeth, or when a series really has a coherent unity other than that YOU painted all the paintings. Come to think of it, there is no predicament! You’ve jsut got to change your attitude and think of this: If you’ve moved to a new area you need to build up a new client base –locally. Trying to flog your work in some faraway place may sound interesting, but it’s a kite that in all likelihood will not fly! You need to have local clients because sellling locally involves the least investment. So, put up an exhibition, invite people you know, ask them to ask people they think might be interested, put out flyers or make a pretty poster and get it hung in all the shops. All this is just common sense marketing. You want to keep things in hand as much as possible. It’s great having shows abroad, but you never know how things will work out if you live thousands of miles away. You don’t know the way dealers work in Britain (where the art market is in the slump, just like Ireland) or the US. Sending work abroad often involves paperwork and $$. But why not continue to sell through your South African contacts?

Best of luck in your new surroundings!

 

 

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